The Jets are the NFL’s new 60-Minute Men.
After Adam Vinatieri gave the Colts a 16-14 lead with just 53 seconds on the clock in their AFC Wild Card matchup, most of America probably wrote the Green & White off. There wouldn’t be enough time for Rex Ryan’s club to move downfield quickly, especially on a night when second-year passer Mark Sanchez was far from accurate inside Lucas Oil Stadium.
But Pat McAfee kicked off and Antonio Cromartie, handling kick return duties with Brad Smith slowed by injury, raced 47 yards out to the Jets’ 46. With two timeouts still at their disposal, the visitors had plenty of time to get in Nick Folk field goal range.
“I never lost confidence,” said Rex Ryan of his thoughts after Vinatieri’s strike. “I thought, ‘We have enough time,’ and then we had the big return from Cromartie.”
Sanchez quickly went to Braylon Edwards for 9 yards and the Jets called timeout. Edwards (four catches, 62 yards) bobbled the ball on the way down, but it was ruled on the field and after a booth review that the rangy wideout had made a reception before falling on his own fumble. Then Sanchez went to Santonio Holmes for 11 and the speedy target (4-46) got out of bounds at the Colts’ 34.
“He has a lot of resolve,” said WLB Bart Scott of Sanchez. “I think he plays better in pressure situations when a lot of the thinking is gone and it’s just reacting. He’s moving, he gets in a groove. The tempo gets him in a groove. I think he sees the field a lot better sometimes and he gets in a rhythm.”
After the clocked was stopped, the Jets decided to run LaDainian Tomlinson up the middle for 2 yards. Then the Colts inexplicably called for a timeout and allowed offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer to devise a play.
Turns out Schotty handed the keys to Sanchez. It was up to No. 6 to select a call off the two-minute play sheet (which consisted of about a dozen plays) that he liked.
“He had a few different plays ready,” said the 24-year-old QB, “and he knew what I liked and I think he had a pretty good idea of what I was going to call. It was a good learning experience for me and it’s great to know that he has that trust in me.”
After making the play selection, Sanchez threw a great back-shoulder toss to Edwards for an 18-yard gain to the Colts’ 14. Corner Jacob Lacey was in coverage, but he could only helplessly watch Edwards elevate, grab the rock at the top of his jump and then come down with two feet in bounds.
“You have to have those in your toolbox and you go to it in your time of need,” said Sanchez, who became the first Jets QB to win three playoff games. “We needed it. I knew I could have made that throw last year — I don’t know if I could have made that call last year.”
Sanchez, who finished 18-of-31 for 189 yards with one interception, missed on a long pass to Edwards on the Jets’ next-to-last possession that would have cemented the game. But he didn’t miss this time around and it set up Folk for his first playoff game-winner and third career GW from 32 yards out.
“Go make it look like an extra point and that’s what I tried to do,” said Folk. “It went right down the middle.”
“We put him in a good spot and that’s what he does,” added Sanchez. “He’s done a great job for us down the stretch and he kicked one when we needed it. I don’t like to look at him. I just hung out with Coach Cav [QBs coach Matt Cavanaugh] for a second, just looked over his shoulder, not watching the game, watching the crowd to see what they would do. And they weren’t very happy, so I knew it went in.”
Jets Nation celebrated throughout the land. And because the Green & White saw this one through till the end, the 60-Minute Men will take their fight on to New England next Sunday.
Tags: Antonio Cromartie, Braylon Edwards, Indianapolis Colts, Lucas Oil Stadium, Mark Sanchez, Nick Folk, Rex Ryan, Santonio Holmes
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